Getting Closer to the Customer

Getting Closer to the Customer

Agility is the key to delivering world-class customer service.

Getting online - the"low-hanging fruit" of e-government - has been done. It is now time for governments across Australia to take the more difficult steps towards the enterprise-wide transformation that is required for true e-government success.

Governments have, to date, done a great job of incorporating the Internet into their operations. Across Australia, governments at all levels have thrown open their virtual doors to provide constituents with innovative, user-friendly modes of online interaction. However, as hundreds of failed e-businesses have discovered, success needs more than just technology. It requires that businesses adapt by using the Internet to transform their operations along customer-centric lines.

Similarly, to achieve the goals of e-government (that is, increased customer satisfaction and lower costs of operation) and sustain performance in the longer term, governments need more than just a good Web site. They will need to work towards the goal of optimised customer relationships in all channels. This means achieving an agile organisational structure that is capable of making sharp turns, time and time again, to deliver world-class customer service.

In short, governments will need to transform every facet of their operations - people, business processes, technology and strategy - to move from their current approaches - usually organised around products and processes - to a customer-centric model built on enduring relationships. There can be no doubt that this transformation will be complex and challenging. With strong leadership and solid advice, however, it need not be impossible.

A recent report from Deloitte Research, e-Government's Next Generation: Transforming the Government Enterprise Through Customer Service, investigated the primary ingredients for this transformation. The report outlines eight key steps public sector managers can take to achieve the transformation to a flexible, winning organisation.

1. Provide strong executive leadership.

At a practical level, enterprise transformation is a mosaic of components and processes that demand executive-level leadership and commitment to drive positive change. Public sector executives must remain steadfast in their commitment to making e-government successful, even in the face of shortcomings in performance and in the context of an economic downturn.

2. Take an enterprise-wide view of the transformation.

As detailed above, if governments are to succeed at"leaving no citizen behind" in the wake of e-government advancement, a whole-of-government approach to enterprise transformation will be required. Implementing this vision, however, will require fundamental changes in government culture, especially with respect to sharing information across departmental boundaries.

3. Create a road map for success.

Governments need to start by linking their mission, vision and values statements to high performance goals:u defining broad service goals and objectivesu developing appropriate business modelsu aligning people, business, processes and technologyu establishing measurable performance metrics.

4. Building the business schematic.

One of the most vital - and least glamorous - components of successful transformation is a schematic detailing the technical architecture that links front and back offices. This includes tools that will be used for supporting the customer-centric enterprise, such as:u customer data integrated across service delivery channelsu a shared services layer for electronic payment, security and infrastructureu an enterprise-wide customer relationship management process.

5. Diagnosing the current situation.

Before committing one cent to further developments, public sector executives need to establish how well current initiatives are meeting expectations. Key indicators include:u customer adoption of new service channelsu changes in customer satisfaction levelsu impact on operational performanceu impact on cost structure.

6. Leverage core competencies, access the rest.

The reality is that for e-government to succeed in the long term, governments must be equipped with the right skills to deliver high-quality service. This imperative - most commonly expressed as"focusing on core competencies - is a powerful change for governments.

When departments think of themselves in terms of competencies, managers can begin to see how these competencies should be used, not only in the department but across departmental borders. The result is a clear understanding of what the organisation can do and what it cannot do and must, therefore, outsource.

7. Create an organisational structure to drive development.

Most governments recognise that harnessing the rapid evolution of e-government requires a new approach to the organisational structure of their enterprises. As a result, chief information offices are being established at overarching and business-unit levels of government. However, innovative e-governments are now taking organisational design one step further and are establishing program management offices with greater authority to drive development.

8. Prioritise for the future

Developing a comprehensive plan for enterprise transformation enables governments to prioritise projects for near- and longer-term implementation.

By following these eight steps, public sector organisations can position themselves to take full advantage of the service delivery benefits of the networked economy. The key to gaining this advantage is for governments to transform into flexible, customer-centric organisations. There can be no doubt that the steps towards this transformation will be complex and challenging. However, there are tools, including those outlined above, that governments can use to help sort out conflicting challenges and priorities.

Dr Mike Lisle-Williams is part of Deloitte Consulting's public sector practice. He can be contacted on Deloitte Research's report e-Government's Next Generation is available at

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